Content Area Instruction


            Each phase of a lesson, from planning through evaluation, can include some special modification for language minority students.


Curriculum Design


         Language and content teachers need to work together to identify and plan for the language and content needs. Language teachers can assist content teachers b suggesting modified ESL techniques such as TPR to demonstrate vocabulary, incorporating music and chants on subject area topics, and implementing sustained silent reading sessions with content area materials.

            The plans may include objectives in more than one content area. By keeping in mind the language needs of the students and the curriculum program for the subject, the teacher may plan themes that build on each other. In this way, students are able to take advantage of previously learned concepts and language as they continue though the year. Topic related vocabulary and concepts are repeated throughout the various thematic materials allowing students to become increasingly able to communicate their ideas on these topics.


Developing Objectives

            Objectives are necessary to guide teaching. A lesson with a clear objective focuses the instruction by concentrating on a particular goal and guides the teacher to select those learning activities that accomplish the goal. Skillful teachers incorporate students’ interest and knowledge into the objectives so students can participate effectively.

            Effective SDAIE lesson plans not only accomplish content objectives but also increase language skills. Language objectives are included and coordinated with the content objectives.


Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English

S. D. A. I. E.


The Who, What, When and Why of SDAIE


SDAIE refers to an eclectic approach to instruction in content areas of the curriculum, such as science and math. Sheltered instruction is sometimes incorrectly used as the label for a high level of ELD class. A student in a sheltered American Literature class, for example, would be a student who is reading the same core literature as the other students at his grade level and who is receiving the same rigorous instruction as other students at his grade level. The instructor uses sheltered strategies to impart the key concepts to the students. The sheltered class is tied to the curriculum framework. An EL may be placed in some SDAIE classes depending upon assessment results.

Content-based ELD is for English learners who are not yet at the intermediate fluency stage of language acquisition. The content of their core classes is not necessarily tied to the curriculum framework and is usually the content that is taught at lower grade levels.

SDAIE is designed for students at the intermediate fluency level of language acquisition who have literacy in some language.

SDAIE is the bridge between primary language instruction and mainstream instruction for students at the intermediate fluency stage. It provides access to the core curriculum for students with literacy in a language and who are in grades 4-12.

All students are required to have access to the core curriculum. Students who are at the beginning level stages of language acquisition require instruction in their primary language in order to keep up in their content skills while they are acquiring English if their teachers are trained in sheltered strategies.


The Six Components of SDAIE

1.     Tap Prior Knowledge.

It is important for teachers to have a clear understanding of the concepts their students already possess that are related to the topic of study. Teachers can make certain assumptions about information that students have consistently been in schools in this country since kindergarten. Those same assumptions can not be made about students who have not been schooled in this country.

A variety of strategies can be incorporated to determine prior knowledge of students. Inquiry charts, such as K-W-L charts, direct questioning, pictorial representations, and small group discussions give insights into the students’ knowledge base.


Supply needed background information.

Research shows that the more students know about a subject, the easier it is for them to learn new information related to the subject. In order to enrich background information, monolingual teachers can train bilingual students, parents, and community members to assist other students. Texts in a variety of languages should be kept in the classroom. Preview-Review will help students comprehend the delivery of the lesson. Pre-teaching a few related key words develops both vocabulary and background knowledge.

Personalize the lesson.

Personalizing the lesson helps students make connections between the old information and the new information. Use students’ names, familiar characters and places, and analogies to help students connect with the lesson. Infuse the lesson with multiculturalism whenever possible. This will enable students see the value of their own culture as well as the value of other cultures.


2.     Contextualize the lesson.

Students are most likely to comprehend new concepts if the teacher presents the lesson in concrete, visual ways. Student retention of the material is enhanced when given the opportunity to manipulate the new information through role-play, discussions with classmates, experiments, graphic organizers, or other concrete, hands on activities.

Teachers make lessons more comprehensible by using visuals and clearly enunciating. It is important to be sensitive to grammar structures, vocabulary, or idiomatic expressions that maybe confusing. If you know the native language of the students, use cognates when possible.

A critical need of the EL is vocabulary development but vocabulary words are quickly forgotten when taught out of context. Language is acquired in global chunks. Words that are used in context, with descriptions that are not supported by visuals, are understood and retained. Students will not succeed in the mainstream classroom if they lack content specific vocabulary that their native English speaking counterparts have developed over the years. The teacher needs to be aware of the subject matter vocabulary that students are expected to use in order for students to achieve their full academic potential.

Neither the content or content words should be simplified. After a lesson has been taught, students can make a list of their new vocabulary words. If students have had plenty of opportunities to use and hear the words in context, it is likely that they will not need to use their dictionaries. Students may want to draw pictures of their vocabulary words to help them remember what the words mean. Some students will want to write the meanings in their native language. Other students will not know what the word mean their native language because the concepts may be new. Let students do whatever they need to do to succeed. SDAIE provides a vehicle for conceptual development. When children attain more concepts, their vocabulary expands.


3. Modify the use of the textbook (less is more.)

ELs do not have the literacy skills that their fluent English proficient counterparts possess. It is unrealistic to expect teachers to cover as much material with EL as with fluent English speakers. It is also unrealistic to expect to cover material in the same time frame. In the SDAIE classroom, the key concepts students need to learn are carefully selected and become the focus of all activities and discussions.

Students will learn most of the information from the teacher’s oral delivery. Before the students read form the textbook, the teachers should:

a)     determine the background knowledge that the students possess;

b)    supply any missing experiences or information which students will need to comprehend the lesson;

c)     teach the main concepts using visuals, manipulatives, realia, etc.;

d)    provide opportunities for students to interact with the concepts;

e)     use visuals in the book to explain the lesson;

f)     use outside sources as needed.


By the time the students are ready to read from the book, the key vocabulary and concepts will be familiar. Teachers should analyze the text to determine which portions should be discussed and / or read. Reading activities include the teacher reading aloud critical excerpts from the text, rephrasing and paraphrasing along the way. Students can read in pairs, groups, in response to the teacher, or along with the teacher. Student success during independent reading is dependent upon the quality of the teacher directed pre-reading activities. Remember that the more students understand before they read from the book, the better they will understand the text.


3.     Provide a positive affective domain

Krashen points out that students are best able to acquire English language skills when there is a low affective filter in the classroom, in an environment that is accepting and encouraging rather than critical, a student will be best able to understand the comprehensible input of the teacher.

A low anxiety environment is equally important in the content are classroom. Teachers can provide a positive feedback domain by focusing on the content of the student’s message rather than on the form. Teachers who overtly correct students’ grammar or pronunciation discourage students from active participation in the class. Teachers need to walk that fine line between giving students time to find the word and being supportive by supplying the needed vocabulary. Teachers can create an environment that provides the wait time that students need by asking students to discuss a topic with their partner or in groups before directly asking the student a question

Student-student interaction is important in developing a supportive classroom environment. Students are able to translate for one another and teach one another in ways teachers can not. Students have better retention of the material when they teach their peers and they feel empowered as successful learners when they help their classmates.

            Classroom bookshelves should be filled with books, videos, and tapes in the languages spoken by the student. These primary language materials will help students access the information, convey to students that their bilingual skills are valuable, and permit parents to participate in their students’ education.

            Older students who are proficient in two languages can serve as teachers aides, especially at the middle and high school levels. These cross-age tutors can learn preview-review techniques and provide language support.

            Teachers who provide frequent student-student interactions can structure time for interactions with small groups of students or individual students. These frequent teacher-student interactions enable teachers to assess the concept attainment of students in informal settings and permit students to develop a comfort level with both the teacher and the concepts that might be difficult to achieve in a whole class setting.


4.     Teach study skills

Many El students immigrate from countries where the academic program is very different from the one they encounter in the USA. Others enter school with interrupted or limited schooling. All students need to learn study skills that will enable them to succeed in all curricular areas. Late arrivals often need assistance in developing study skills that native English speaking student learned in previous grades. Examples of these study skills include the ability to take notes and organize thoughts, the ability to differentiate between main ideas and supporting details, and the ability to identify cause and effect.

In CALLA (Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach) teachers encourage to consciously focus on how they learn and on which learning skills they were able to use to best learn the information. Students use this awareness of their learning skills as a vehicle for continual and future academic success.

Students who come from cultures that use a circular discourse style will not quickly adapt to the linear discourse style used in schools. Teachers can use graphic organizers to help students develop an ability to use linear rhetorical styles. Students who are bilingual and bicultural will develop the ability to use both discourse styles in appropriate styles in appropriate settings.

Use the technique of scaffolding to assure success in risk taking. Scaffolding enables students to perform at higher levels than would be possible without the support. Support is gradually withdrawn as students’ linguistically ability expands.

Students need to understand how to approach a textbook. Titles chapter headings, topic sentences, and skimming for meaning need to be explained. Students need to learn the purpose of the table of contents, the glossary, etc. so they can quickly access the information in books.

Students armed with a variety of study skills are more successful in their academic careers. Once students learn how they best study and learn new information, they will be able to successfully apply these strategies to their mainstream classes.


5.     Provide alternative forms of assessment

Many of the traditional tests we give students require good literacy skills on the part of the students. Since we know that EL’s do not possess the same literacy skills as their native English-speaking peers, we can assume that tests require students to do significant amounts of reading and / or writing will be both physically fatiguing and frustrating.

Most of the time, s teacher knows that the student has learned information but the teacher fails to value the way in which the student’s concept attainment was discovered. We, as teachers, have to rethink the importance of performance based assessments. Authentic assessments are as valid as the traditional paper and pencil exams. Teachers can interview a student to find out what the student learned, what the student feels he still does not know well and what the student learned what he believes will be significant for his future. Portfolios are one way teachers and students can see academic growth. Students show concept attainment by creating videotapes and audiotapes, group or individual projects, and experiments. Teachers can ask students to write exams questions that the students feel they can answer well.

The purpose of SDAIE is to provide access to the core curriculum for EL’s. The only way teachers know they have successfully delivered the content is when students show gains in their academic development. It is for this reason that performance based assessment is a critical component in the educational program of EL’s.


Planning a SDAIE lesson


1.     Identify the crucial concepts / key vocabulary to be taught.

2.     Be sure you plan listening and speaking activities prior to reading and writing activities.

3.     Plan to make presentation in several styles. Locate needed realia, and visuals, manipulatives and / or media to assist you in providing students with comprehensible input. Identify key vocabulary words and print vocabulary word cards / bank. Preview other linguistic information to be sure your comprehensible input is simplified and / or modified.

4.     Design appropriate “advance organizers.” Activity to pre-teach vocabulary. Activity to draw students’ prior knowledge; make reference to previously learned material. Break material into meaningful chunks.

5.     Build in “Checking for Understanding.”

6.     Plan a cooperative learning activity as a follow-up.


C. A. L. L. A.

Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach

      An Instructional Model developed to meet the academic needs of students learning English.

      Targets students at the advanced beginning and intermediate levels of English.

      It integrates:

     Language development;

     Content area instruction;

     Explicit instruction in learning strategies.

      Language development

     Academic vs. Social Language.

     Academic Language is :

       More difficult and takes longer than social language.

       Language functions needed for authentic academic content.

       Requires lower and higher order thinking skills.

      Content Area Instruction

     Content is aligned with an all-English curriculum.

     Introduces Science (hands on approach.)

     Math (unique language)

     Social Studies (geography, first)

     Language Arts.

      Learning Strategies

     Text organization.

     Problem solving.

     Conducting and reporting experiments.

     Research and reporting on Social Studies.

     They are taught explicitly by naming the strategy.


The Content-Based Curriculum in CALLA


Why Teach Content?

      Foundation for learning grade level information.

      Practice skills and processes needed in content areas.

      Content is motivating.

    Content provides context for learning and applying learning strategies.


How to Select Content?

    Ask content teachers to help select high priority topics and skills for the grade level.

    Study curriculum frameworks to see how topics selected are sequenced and reentered over several grades.

    Read school adopted textbooks for different subjects, for the grade level plus lower and higher grades.

    Identify major components for each content topics.

    Allow students to select some content topics for in depth study.


Guidelines for Teaching Content

    Provide hands-on and cooperative experiences.

    Start by linking the lesson topic to students’ prior knowledge.

    Teach and have students use technical vocabulary appropriate to the content subject.

    Address different learning styles: use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic means.

    Follow general overview of the lesson or unit with new information in chunks; include active practice.

    Show students how to ask and answer higher-level questions about content.

    Monitor students’ comprehension on an on-going basis.

    Teach students’ how to know when they do not know and what action to take.

    Show students how to use graphic organizers to identify prior knowledge, prepare study guides and restructure prior knowledge.

    Provide books, articles, and other resources on content topics; teach students how to use them.

    Provide explicit instruction in learning strategies for understanding, remembering, using content.

How to Teach Content

      Hands on and Cooperative learning.

      Link to prior knowledge.

      Teach and use technical vocabulary.

      Learning styles.

      Overview the topic.

      Model questioning (HOTS).

      Monitor comprehension.

      Student monitoring.

      Graphic organizers.

      Instruction in learning strategies.


Why Teach Academic Language

      Key to success in the grade level classroom.

      Not learned outside the classroom setting.

      Content teachers may assume students have appropriate language skills.

      It promotes higher level thinking and provides practice in using English as a medium of thought.


How to Select Academic Language

      Observe and record language used in content classrooms.

      Analyze the language used in the textbook.

      Select authentic tasks.

      Allow students to select academic language.


How to Teach Academic Language


      Students identify new words and structures.

      Practice in listening to content information and answering HOTS questions.

      Cooperative activities.

      Read and write in every content area.

·      Teach learning strategies for all activities.

·      using affective control to assist learning tasks


CALLA in Bilingual Classes

      Prepare students to transfer what they learn in L1 to the same kind of learning experiences in English.

      They learn to use their knowledge of academic language in L1 as they learn the skills in English.

      Strategies can be practice in L1

      Use of both languages supports learning of content and language.


CALLA in Sheltered Classes

      Select high priority content.

      Include academic language functions that promote HOTS.

      Learning strategies provide students with the necessary tools to comprehend teachers and textbooks.


Planning for CALLA


How to Plan for CALLA Instruction

n      Assess students’ prior knowledge.

n      Select concepts and skills to be learned, including HOTS.

n      Identify academic language skills and functions required to perform a specific content area task.

n      Choose learning strategies that are appropriate for tasks in different phases of the lesson.

n      Assemble materials needed to provide context and hands on activities.

n      Organize activities into the five-phase instructional sequence: Preparation, Presentation, Practice, Evaluation, and Expansion.


Teaching CALLA

n      Preparation: Students identify and reflect on prior knowledge related to the lesson topic; teacher provides overview of learning objectives, introduces essential new vocabulary, and may provide concrete experience to develop students’ prior knowledge.

n      Presentation: Teacher presents/explains new information, skills, and/or learning strategies; information is presented through a variety of modes to accommodate different students’ learning styles.

n      Practice: Students actively practice new concepts, skills, and/or learning strategies; cooperative learning activities are featured.

n      Evaluation: Students practice individual and cooperative self-evaluation.

n      Expansion: Students integrate what was learned in the lesson into their existing knowledge frameworks; restructure and refine prior knowledge as needed; apply new knowledge, skills, and/or learning situations in real-life contexts.


How to Monitor CALLA Instruction

n      Analyze current teaching and identify those compatible with CALLA.

n      Develop a realistic plan for change.

n      Work with a coaching partner to plan CALLA lessons observe each other, and discuss the observations.


Learning Strategies


n     Strategies represent the dynamic processes underlying learning.

n     Active learners are better learners.

n     Strategies can be learned.

n     Academic language learning is more effective with learning strategies.

n     Learning strategies transfer to new tasks.


Types of Learning Strategies

n      Metacognitive Strategies: used in planning for learning, self-monitoring, and evaluating achievement.

n      Metacognitive Knowledge: understanding one’s own learning processes, the nature of the learning task, and the strategies that should be effective.

n      Cognitive Strategies: manipulating the material to be learned through rehearsal, organization, or elaboration.

n      Social/Affective Strategies: interacting with others for learning or using affective control for learning.


How to Select Learning Strategies

n      The curriculum determines the strategy.

n      Start with a small number of strategies.

n      Use tasks of moderate difficulty.

n      Use strategies with strong empirical support.

n      Use strategies that apply to different content domains.


How to Teach Learning Strategies

n      Preparation: Develop students’ awareness through a variety of activities.

n      Presentation: Teach the strategy explicitly.

n      Practice: Provide opportunities for practicing.

n      Evaluation: Teach students to evaluate their own strategy use.

n      Expansion: Encourage students to apply the strategies in other learning areas.


Using Learning Strategies for Motivation

n      Expectations: support students’ expectations.

n      Value: increase students’ value of academic material by linking language to content.

n      Attribution: encourage students to monitor their own learning activities and to identify strategies that effectively support their learning efforts.